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5 Apr, 2020 13:21

Easier said than done? Trump says major US leagues 'have to get back' but Covid-19 carnage could mean long waiting game

Easier said than done? Trump says major US leagues 'have to get back' but Covid-19 carnage could mean long waiting game

US President Donald Trump says that the nation's various sports leagues could resume by the end of the summer but experts warn that any such move could come in direct contrast to coronavirus safety measures.

The US has joined the majority of the rest of the world in shutting down practically all sporting events in the country indefinitely as surge they past 300,000 cases of Covid-19, but with the Trump administration apparently keen to return to a state of 'business as usual' they have signposted a resumption of sports in time for the kick-off of the NFL season in early September as a target. 

The NBA, which has been postponed since March 11, kicked off a wave of major sports cancelations and were soon followed by the likes of the NHL, MLS and others. The NFL, currently in pre-season, has also taken measures to limit gatherings of players and have signalled that this month's NFL Draft - originally intended to be a gala event in Las Vegas - will take place online and behind closed doors. 

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With the coronavirus pandemic currently at different stages of infection in various states, scientists have so far resisted predicting as to when it may be safe to resume sports but in a call with leading figures around the sports world on Saturday, Donald Trump suggested that he wants fans back in seats by the end of the summer, or early fall at the latest.

"They want to get back," Trump said at a press briefing on Saturday. "They've got to get back. They can't do this. Their sports weren't designed for it. The whole concept of our nation wasn't designed for it. We have to get back. We want to get back soon."

Given the delicate balancing act between resurrecting the economy and protecting public health, it is likely that sports leagues would only consider these recommendations if they were echoed by the scientific community, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver said to have noted that he would require an "all clear" before potentially jeopardizing the health of NBA players and their families.

The call also included various other sporting luminaries including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as well as WWE head Vince McMahon.

The sports hold-up has left several leagues in limbo as to the state of the current season and whether or not it is viable to continue it. Silver is reportedly very keen to crown a champion to the 2020 NBA season, with speculation rampant that a model of playing a truncated remainder of games, all in Las Vegas and without fans in attendance. However, it is also understood that they have contingency plans in place if it is decided that the season cannot be salvaged.

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There will be mounting pressure from sponsors, broadcasters and advertisers alike to get the show back on the road as soon as possible as sports' role in the larger US economy becomes more and more apparent. Sports kicking back into action would represent a return to a semblance on normalcy for many people across the United States and further afield. 

Jumping the gun, though, could be a public relations disaster for a US president who may see his re-election tied to a resumption of the country's way of life - sporting and otherwise. Billions of dollars are on the line in this very high stakes game but with the United States now the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, it is looking increasingly inevitable that the health crisis will leave its imprint on the sports landscape in the country for a quite a while to come.